A Woman’s Hair is Her Crown: Yemeni Female Hair Stylists on the Increase [Archives:1997/43/Culture]

October 27 1997

Doaa Abdulqader, Yemen Times

Hair dressing requires good taste and an artistic bent. Several Yemeni females have started to work as hairdressers, whether in their own salons or for others. This profession is being gradually accepted by society. It is no longer considered as something shameful which used to be done by the immediate female family members. Many of the present hairdressers and beauticians started their profession as a hobby, helping to style the hair of their immediate family members. Few have qualifications from recognized institutes. One of the pioneers of this profession is Mrs. Aida Hassan. She was trained at the Harreit Habbard Ayer, at the Chrisitine Shaw of Bond Street, and at Mary Quant.

The hobby generally grows into a full blown profession. In order to be wholly independent, many of the hairdressers open their own salons. Lack of financial resources is usually overcome by borrowing the needed money and opening the salon from home so as to avoid the expenses of paying rent and taxes. “Opening and equipping my salon had cost me around YR 300,000, including obtaining the necessary trade license,” said Leena, a hair stylist in Sanaa. Leena, 25 years old with a secondary-school certificate, works on her own and trains other girls to become hair dressers. “I teach them to do fashionable hair styles, apply make-up, hair dying, and remove facial hair, etc. They go then to work in other salons or open their own.” An average female hair cut nowadays costs about YR 300. The cost of hair dying, on the other hand, depends on the length of a female’s hair and the effort that goes into the process. “We have to charge for the cost of the rather expensive imported hair dyes,” said Leena. The work of a hairdresser also involves preparing brides for their wedding night. An average amount of YR 5000 is charged for hair stylizing, general make-up, and the hiring of the wedding dress. An additional amount of YR 1,500 is charged for intricate henna designs on the back of the hands top of the feet and just smeared on the soles of the feet. “On average, I receive five or six clients a day, but the number increases during the summer vacation when the weddings generally increase and people travel abroad where some Yemeni women shed their head covering.” How do women and girls choose their hair styles and colors?

“It depends on their educational level and social status. Some want to emulate a particular Arab female TV announcer or singer, etc., others just don’t know what is suitable for them. I have to choose the hair style most appropriate for their faces and general appearance. However, all of them, young and old, want what is most fashionable nowadays. Dying their hair bronze, blonde, or a mixing of 3 colors are the favorites of many women.” Not all women, though, are easily satisfied with the way they look. It is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. But some women are more fickle than others. “Some women demand a change of hair style shortly after doing the one they chose in the first place. This is unavoidable, I guess. We have to live with it.”
Up until very recently, this profession was limited to non-Yemeni women residing in this country. However, the changing social view allows an increasing number of Yemeni women to become hair stylists.